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Laying the foundations

The start of an extensive two-year project: where to begin? At this early stage, it is not possible to fully comprehend what the next two years will bring exactly. Starting to construct the archive of an artist that has created over 44 years of work is something that can feel a bit overwhelming. However, I am thrilled to throw myself into the deep end and to learn all the ins and outs of Babs Haenen’s oeuvre and life as an artist.

Babs and I met for the first time in 2022. At the time I was working as a freelancer for the Dutch Cultural Heritage Agency (RCE), on a project regarding collection interviews. A number of Babs’ early works, all created between 1981 and 1987, are part of the RCE-collection. The intention of the interview was to gather information about these works, the artist’s inspiration and methods. But I learned a lot more than just that. When I visited Babs’ studio for the first time, I felt inspired by the beautiful ceramic vessels and sculptures but also by Babs’ stories and vibrant personality. After the interview she asked me if I would like to write

her Wikipedia page as well, as she knew that I had worked on another project for the RCE called ‘Media Art on Wikipedia’. Of course I agreed, and so it happened. As I wrote the Wikipedia page in my free time, Babs wanted to thank me by offering me a piece from her Flow collection. She could not have made me happier: I am the proud owner of an actual Babs Haenen Flow vase! It has been a real show stopper in my small studio apartment ever since.

During the first couple of weeks of the Archivorum project, Babs and I met again three times already. First, I’ve visited Babs at the PAN Amsterdam, the Netherlands’ leading fair in art, antiques and design. A small selection of Babs’ work was presented there in the Galerie Ramakers section. It was nice to see her again and catch up, and I also made some photographs. In the following weeks I went to Babs’ house two times. In time we will meet at her studio, but this is not possible at the moment as the roof is under construction. We see each other every Friday to collect and document as many art pieces, photographs, publications and other relevant information as possible. Although Babs and her work are not entirely new for me, I am already learning more and more details. I will start writing down all relevant remarks she makes during our time together, which could also be fruitful for the academic publication I’ll create later in the process.

I feel extremely honored to be part of the Archivorum Ark project and I can’t wait to see what the following months will bring!

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